Over 100 boys and girls over the age of 14 from New York City and its surrounding suburbs lined up in the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center with the hope of making the cut.
After several hours of waiting they were herded to different courts at the complex, each spending a few minutes chasing and throwing tennis balls with USTA officials who watched and evaluated their performance.
Noah Wolfe, 16, was first in line at 10 a.m. after his early morning commute to Flushing Meadows Corona Park from Princeton Junction, New Jersey.
“I thought the line would start maybe six hours before it started, but when I got here there was no one here,” Wolfe said.
The tryouts were nothing new for Sheepshead Bay native Chad Seaver, who took the 45-minute commute for another shot at the job this year.
“They made me try out again,” Seaver said. “Most people don’t have to try out again, but they said I had to.”
Of the 100 that tried out last week, the USTA plans to choose roughly 60 new ball persons to add to the 200 callbacks from last year.
Sitting second in the line last Thursday morning, Seaver brought along his experience and tales from the 2013 U.S. Open.
“I just want to get some bigger matches,” Seaver said. “Last year I didn’t get any good matches, mainly doubles matches.”
Tina Taps, manager of the U.S. Open Ballpersons, has led the tryouts since 1989 and said she looks forward to meeting the new group and preparing for another tournament this August 25.
“Hopefully we have some great athletes,” Taps said. “Beyond that, awareness, focus and certain things you can see when you’re out there watching them.”
In addition to their athleticism, Taps said the judges for the “ball runners” tryouts also focus on their attention and whether the candidates are taking the role seriously.
“I hope it inspires them more, being close to their idols in tennis,” she said. “There’s so much to be learned out there, and they do it with such pride.”